Chuck's Hit n Miss Gasolene Engines

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Click here To See Some Merkel Motorwheel Ads
How to make a five minute Buzz Coil!
Labels to make your own dry cell batteries
How to make a totally gutless Wico EK magneto work again for under $10 

We operate an orphanage for early gasolene engines made from 1900 to around 1930 . There is a full selection of operating engines I keep in my parts store . So if your are in Mathis, Texas on the shores of lovely Lake Corpus Christi , stop in the Carquest Auto Parts Store for an impromptu start up session .I have a full selection of greasers and oilers , 1/2 npt plugs from 2.99 , or head gasket paper up to 2x3 foot square We live on a Lake so our collection includes but is not limited to marine engines .
Just the short list
Fuller Johnson, Baker Monitor , Fairbanks Morse , Reid, IHC Famous an M , Nelson Brothers , Sattley , SAMSCO,, John Deere, Associated, Shaw Motorbike , Universal Marine , Ferro marine , Wright marine , United , Briggs, Novo ,Maytag , and the errant Cushman or two .




Merkel Motorwheel Reference Section

Here is a brief company history for the Merkel Co. and especially the Motorwheel!

So what is a motorbicycle? Well, the mid to early teens were a boom period for motorcycle popularity. Rising sales and profits inspired many would-be manufacturers to actually build and then sell their brainchild to the unsuspecting public. Many designs came and went during this golden era of motorcycling
The interest in motorcycles spilled over into the bicycle market, as the bicyle attachment was reintroduced. Leading the way in late 1914 and 1915 was the Smith motorwheel and Cyclemotor. Their success brought other entries into the market. Joseph Merkel introduced his first motorbicycle engine design out of Milwaukee in1902. Soon thereafter he designed the Merkel automobile, Flying Merkel VeeTwin motorcycle and the Merkel Motorwheel, which was quite different from his original product. Joseph Merkel was quite a prolific designer and was credited for the Eveready Autoped motorscooter, and maybe even Miami Motor Bicycles and the (Evans) Cyclemotor.

One of the reasons for building the motorwheel was to make an attachment that could be easily fitted to any bicycle in the absolute minimum amount of time. Ads proclaim you could have it up and running in 20 minutes! 20 minutes to remove the rear wheel and fender, and attach the motor assembly, fasten the throttle to the handlebar and loom the cable, and add 5 inches to the bicycles original chain.  Not likely.
Once installed operation was quite simple, with no belt flying about or exposed gears or pulleys, no friction discs to slip and no offset thrust like a Smith Motorwheel. Joe did succeed in achieving his goals for the outfit, and even added a few extras, such as the well designed hemi -head - ohv engine, and a built in electric light generator.

There were unfortunateley several features that contributed to the early demise of these engines. The final drive gears were exposed and their grease quickly accumulated road dirt and debris. The rear wheel is captive inside the mounting brackets, so a flat meant removing the engine completely. Joe apparently had this point made painfully clear as he later produced a butt-ended inner tube that could be repaired in haste.
 
Early Company History

The Merkel Motorwheel was first introduced at the convention of the Cycle Trades Association in Atlantic City, NJ Dec. 4 1916 as a 1917 model, and was publicly announced a week earlier (see picture “an announcement”)and was known publicly as early as the previous August when they incorporated. The original office location was 284 Washington Place, Flushing, NY.  (Joe’s house?) It was then moved to 1834 Broadway, NY, NY, with the factory located in East Rochester. The factory was merely a place to assemble all of the parts manufatured by outside vendors. For example hubs and brakes were supplied by Eclipse, Splitdorf made the mags, the engine was made by Hendee (Indian Motorcycles), US Tire, Superior Stamping made fenders, Mott Wheel Works - rims, New Depature made the bearings. The engine sold for $75 complete. Contracts were made with these suppliers in January and February 1917 for 5000 units beginning in April.

Indian Takes Over

Joeseph Merkel suffered the usual troubles of any small business , and running out of money was forced into bankruptcy in late 1918. On December 12 of that year the assests of the company were auctioned off. The building and tooling were leased, so assets amounted to the unassembled parts for 300 motorwheels, and rights to the design valued at $17,000. Joe entered the bidding, but dropped out at $1650. The entire assets went to Hendee for $1700! At this point any mention of the outfit in trade ads or otherwise disappears until 1922, and by this time Hendee had improved the oufit with the addition of a clutch mounted on an extended camshaft. Thoughtfully designed, but poorly executed. These engines were built up from the parts bought at auction. (I have one of the 300) The crankcase was milled off flat and mounting bosses were soldered from the inside. Everything was crude and expedient. Just what would be expected of someone trying to get rid of those excess parts! The addition of a clutch allowed the rider to stop and go without having to restart the engine. The cylinder was also swapped putting the exhaust to the rear, perhaps to help the head run cooler.

Judging from the serial numbers on remaining Merkels, total production was about 2000 units, far less than their anticipated initial 1917 run of 5000.
 
But How Does It Run ?  

The Motorwheels had a good reputation as good runners with plenty of pep. It pulls well at low speeds and will handle most any grade within reason. Top speed is 35 mph (WFO) one tester in 1917 attained 42 mph. Fuel consumption at the brochure was 100 MPG .

It may have been peppy for its size but smoothness was not one of its finer points. at least at slower engine speeds. At idle the vibration is considerable, despite the counterweighted crank. A rider must keep his weight on the engine after starting on the stand as vibration will cause it to fall off the stand and run away! Once underway however vibration is not particularly noticable.

Research Jim Lucas
If you own a Merkel Motorwheel leave an Email , the rest of us would like to hear from you.



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